I always say for everything there is a perfect world scenario and a real-world scenario. For instance, in a perfect world, pet owners would brush their pet’s teeth daily. In the real world, very few of my clients (including myself) find the time to brush their pet’s teeth regularly. My real world fix is using a dental diet since you feed your dog anyway; I’m not adding another chore to my clients’ busy schedules and the diet does a pretty good job at preventing tartar accumulation.
When it comes to vaccination my perfect world is that pet owners go to their veterinarian for vaccinations, and current recommendations are discussed and vaccines given are tailored to each pet’s lifestyle. In the real world, I realize that pet owners have many options, low-cost vaccine clinics, mobile vaccination clinics, Internet pharmacies, and pet stores. So in the real world, I’d rather give people the tools to help make good decisions for their pets when it comes to vaccinations.
How many boosters do puppies and kittens need?
It’s not how many times vaccinated; it’s more about how old they are when they receive their last vaccine. The current recommendation is to booster every 3-4 weeks starting between 6-8 weeks of age until the pet is 16 weeks of age. This has to do with the mother’s antibodies wearing down and the youngster being able to make their own immunity against disease. At my clinic, we recommend boosters at 8,12 and 16 weeks of age for DAPP and FVRCP. When it comes to vaccinating young animals, more isn’t necessarily better. I have seen many young animals come to me for a first visit having had boosters every week. This is unnecessary. The immune system stays “busy” with a vaccine for 2 weeks, so any vaccines given sooner aren’t effective.
What vaccines should I get for my pet?
There was a major change in pet vaccine recommendations in the last decade. Previously all vaccines were given yearly boosters and little thought was put into what vaccines were necessary. A major change is that the frequency between vaccines has increased for the dog and cat core vaccines, DAPP and FVRCP. What used to be given annually has been shown to give 3 years of protection. Another change is certain vaccines, “non-core”, are only given if a pet’s lifestyle indicates the need for a vaccine. These include bordetella and leptospirosis for dogs and feline leukemia for cats. Rabies vaccination is a core vaccine and is also legislated by King County where all pets are required to be vaccinated against Rabies.
Can I give my pet vaccinations myself?
If a pet owner is comfortable giving a subcutaneous injection, they can give a vaccination, and I know a lot of people that vaccinate their own pets. There are several important things to consider. First, proper handling of the vaccine. Vaccines need to stay refrigerated until given, and vaccines that require reconstitution should be used within an hour after mixing. Secondly, you can only get a Rabies vaccine through a veterinarian. That vaccine is not sold over the counter in Washington State. Thirdly, not all vaccines are created equal. In the 1980’s killed virus vaccines were introduced and cats started to have tumors related to vaccination sites. Modified live virus vaccines and recombinant vaccines are thought to be much safer for cats. Also, in my experience, killed virus vaccines frequently cause cats to feel sick after vaccination. Newer leptospirosis vaccinations for dogs protect against 4 types of the disease are preferred over older vaccines with protection against only 2 types of leptospirosis. Lastly and again, more is not better. I have noticed that many retail stores and Internet sites sell vaccines that have as many diseases as possible in each vaccine. Many of the components such as chlamydia for cats and coronavirus for dogs aren’t even recommended anymore, so why give the immune system any more information than it needs?
Educating yourself is the best way to make the right choices for you and your pet. I have put links to the AAHA and AAFP and WSU’s vaccine recommendations on my website, wildernessvet.com. I also have the synopsis of our recommendations on our website. Feel free to contact me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.